In Which I Fear I Was Wrong About HR

So as you've managed to guess if you've . . . well read this blog or know me . . . I'm big on careers, job searches, etc.  I'm big on geeky careers and jobs.  It's not just making money and paying bills, I'm big on helping people find meaningful work in their lives.  Assisting people in finding their ideal, true careers, means a lot to me as it's about meaning in life.

However, as I help people, one truth seems to come up again and again – namely that recruiting and HR sucks so badly it has an event horizon.  If you didn't get that that's a black hole joke, you may be at the wrong blog, by the way.

I've had a pet theory that HR and recruiting as we know it or knew it – the large bureaucracy and standard recruiting practices – were going to collapse eventually.  I figured this collapse would happen simply as the old-school departments and recruiters couldn't keep up with technical and cultural change and new demands.  I think I was wrong about this impending collapse.

What I think happened is the collapse had already occurred – but where I expected a dramatic shutdown, I think HR and a lot of the old job-hiring apparatus has just locked up.  It hasn't collapsed – yet – it's just quietly ground to a halt of irrelevance, bureaucracy, and confusion.

Now I base this on feedback from friends, co-workers, and folks I know in HR.  So judge it's accuracy by that statement, and how much you trust my prophetic insights.

Here's what I've noticed:

  • People in HR complaining.  Yes, that's normal, but it seems more and more when I talk to HR people they're paralyzed, overwhelmed, unappreciated, and understaffed.
  • People complaining that HR doesn't do their job.  I think right now people don't know what HR and recruiters are supposed to do – they don't have a sense of how to get from point A to point B in hiring.
  • A sudden burst of new recruiting companies – this is something I've noticed in Silicon Valley.  There are small, fast, hungry companies filling the gaps.
  • Recruiters complaining even more.  Now I've seen this for years – indeed once I had a recruiter call up just to have someone to complain to.  Now they seem to think A) no one knows what they're doing, and B) that they're supposed to do it.
  • Insanely slow hiring cycles.  Look how many months can you go without filling vital positions?  Right, so who do you yell at to speed it up?  Exactly – people aren't sure.
  • Dogpiling.  One person I talk to notes that when a job comes up she gets hit by a bunch of recruiters.  I think a lot of use of recruiters is tossing out a request and hiding while everyone sends it all over.

My take?  The entire recruiting/human resources sphere is significantly paralyzed and/or ineffective, only working between a mix of outsourcing and heroic individual effort.  It hasn't collapsed due to inertia and tradition.

What does this mean?

Well it means the situation is pretty lousy, but it also means what we've been discussing here for awhile – it's on your shoulders to beat a system that seems to be locking up.  Fortunately you're a progeek, and you've got some unique edges.

Let's discuss that tomorrow . . .

Steven Savage